This article is part of a series on local businesses.
Bruce Hill is a strong believer in bringing families together to enjoy ice cream. Not only is the business he owns, Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream in Stow, a community gathering place for families, baseball teams and even pets, it is also a place that caters to people who are allergic or intolerant of dairy or added sugar. The location carries two flavors of vegan ice cream made from coconut or almond milk, along with a flavor of ice cream that has no sugar added.
And of course Handel’s is known for its vast product line of locally sourced ice cream products year-round from its clean walkup window location. For those of you who have never been there, Handel’s management prioritizes cleanliness summer, winter, spring, or fall. Not only does the owner pressure wash the grounds daily, the staff pleasantly laugh at the interior sign, “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.”
The 20 summer high school and college employees learn a lot about running a responsible business as they happily greet the customers and work as a team. Though it is like birds leaving the nest every few years as they graduate from school, many keep in touch with one another to continue sharing their lives and career adventures, said Hill.
“This is one of the most rewarding aspects of owning this business,” he added. “My management team and I are able to help students blossom into the adults they strive to become.”
One might think that scooping ice cream is only that. Yet as part of this team, young people are given the chance to learn about customer service, teamwork, application of mathematics, responsibility and better communication skills. The students become a family and, therefore, now have an additional support structure as they traverse the life-changing decisions that lead them to the future they imagine.
And since there is hardly any turnover, the regular customers love being recognized and often even remembered for their favorite item. Especially customers seeking their favorite free baby ice cream cone with purchase or a dog-specific ice cream treat purchased by their owner.
If you have not been to the Handel’s store in Stow, you may have encountered them over the years at local community events. “We love Stow,” said Hill. “Even though there are 35,000 residents, it has that small town close-knit feeling where everyone seems to know each other and support each other.” Their concern and commitment to the community is evident as they have participated avidly over the years as part of many nonprofit organizations.
And of course the customers also have the opportunity to share the happiness that ice cream brings to any experience. The Stow Handel’s has ice cream carts stocked with Handel Pops and half-pint ice cream containers to be served at graduation parties, showers, weddings or business meetings. Area businesses will provide Handel’s ice cream at customer appreciation events or employee appreciation events.
Along with signature ice cream flavors like black cherry, blueberry cobbler strawberry cheesecake chunk, the business also sells 16 different flavors of Handel pops and 20 ice cream cake flavors available for pick up at the window.
New COVID-19 procedures
The local store closed voluntarily for two weeks to keep the community safe and to ensure all required changes were made to ensure the proper physical distance when they reopened.
And safety is key despite the ongoing costs. Hill said full-time employees will still be paid for the two weeks, and the summer help had not yet ramped up. The pandemic also has impacted the business’ vendors, as product not being sold does not require new product being ordered. The business was fortunate in that when it announced the two-week closure, customers came out more to support the business, which significantly reduced inventory.
Though Handel’s has upheld its high standard for safe food practices and has a food product where there is very limited physical contact, the company stepped back to ensure the gathering areas are conducive to physical space potential. The dining tables and benches will not be in use. Tape will be used to mark the concrete to guide people to stand apart from one another. Windows available for serving the customers will be separated. And those handling the money will not handle the food without appropriate hand protection.
Product changes will be made to again reduce any risk of product contact, including serving dishes, pints and quarts with the lids on so that customers can take them with them instead of lingering and socializing on the premises.
Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream in Stow, is located at 3048 Graham Road, in Stow.
For info, call (330) 677-9901, visit handelsicecream.com or find Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream in Stow on social media.
Editor’s note: Sheilla Reydak, from Reydak Consulting Group Inc., is an author, distance meeting facilitator and consultant. Her husband also is a patient at Purpose Driven Therapy.